Archive for Chuck’s Blogs

An MVP Client Experience

This particular service oriented company, we’ll call them Company X (to protect their privacy), had been in business for 30 years relying solely on word of mouth for new client leads. This approach had worked fine for all these years so why should they change? The business had been successful enough to support and raise a family. The problem was that the client count remained relatively stagnant. The business was not growing. The son got involved as the Manager of Marketing and said to his dad, “it’s time that we started using the internet to promote the business”, something the dad was totally unfamiliar with. The son contracted with a company to build a website for the business. Unfortunately, that company only did web development. They were not skilled in SEO (search engine optimization) or social media so although the site was online, it was not showing up in the search engines and therefore was not being seen which resulted in no new leads.

We met the son through a business connection and began discussing their goals and objectives. We recommended using SEO on the site to help the visibility in search engines and one social media site to help promote the business. They chose MVP because not only were we a web design firm with quite a few years of experience, but we could provide the SEO and social media skills necessary to help get their website found on the internet.

About a month after doing the initial Local SEO and social media implementation, their website ranked on page one for a number of surrounding cities. This expanded their working territory and the calls started coming in. Needless to say, they were quite pleased.

A short time later, the son called and said that the site was down. Since the developer of the site was not maintaining proper currency in WordPress or its Plugins, the site got hacked. We were able to rebuild the site for Company X and they signed on for our standard monthly website maintenance package to protect it.

Fast forward less than a year later; the son told us that they had added two new trucks and 4 new employees to handle the additional business load. Company X is still a very happy client and we are very pleased to be maintaining their website for them.

The moral of this story is that you do need a well-designed website in today’s online world, but your site also has to be visible to potential customers who may be searching for your type of product or service. It also has to be properly maintained to avoid problems. Make sure you choose a company that has the experience and can provide all of these services for you.

Facebook Pages Offer an Online Store – Do I Still Need a Website?

A while back, Facebook partnered with Shopify to create a “Shop” section for Facebook Pages. This enabled businesses to sell their products directly, making it a little easier for some of those businesses to have their Pages become true online stores. If your visitor clicks on a product, they can either be pushed from Facebook to your primary website, or you can let them check out directly on Facebook. Payment processing and transaction tracking is handled by Shopify. Facebook will not (at least for now) take a cut for items sold on the site. So the question is; do you still need a website if you’re selling on Facebook?
The answer is a resounding YES. And here’s why;

It may be hard to envision, but Facebook could eventually lose favor. As social media continues to evolve, other sites, like Google+, may become more popular or an entirely new site or technology not created yet may emerge. It’s impossible to predict. But by choosing Facebook instead of a website, you are favoring the short-term over the long-term. You are investing your time and energy in a platform that may not pay you back over time. It may benefit your short term goals but you can never be sure that it’s going to benefit your longer term goals.

In the meantime, without a website, people who don’t use Facebook become incredibly difficult to identify and reach. Not to mention that they may not be able to find you as easily.

You can’t control what Facebook does with its design, its user interface, its functionality, or ad displays. You’re limited in how you can optimize the experience, and your insights (or metrics) are only what Facebook itself decides to pass onto you. Using Google Analytics on your website provides many valuable metrics to help understand your visitors so you can make the most out of your site.

Many businesses received a rude awakening when Facebook adjusted its algorithms so that only the most popular status updates would be seen by most fans of a page. Statistics range anywhere between 8% – 16% of fans see your posts. If you want to reach ALL fans who’ve liked your page, you now have pay for it. If you post 40 times per month, you could spend hundreds of dollars per month to get your message to all your fans.

That said, it’s true that Facebook, with over 1 billion users, has attractive qualities to anyone building an online presence. So you can’t ignore Facebook, but just realize that you don’t call the shots.
At the end of the day, a website is the most effective way to deliver information to your audience. It is a storehouse of information, customized in any way that you choose, to deliver information to your current and potential customers. This is because you are in total control over what is presented.

When people seek information, they usually use Google, or another search engine, to find it. People won’t be inclined to visit Facebook if they have a specific goal or information they’re seeking. Why? Because Facebook is a connection tool for people to stay in touch in a very organic way. It’s not about structured information delivery, but conversation and social engagement. At least that is the current perception. A website, on the other hand, serves as a hub for all people who are interested in your work and are seeking more information or updates directly from you. It doesn’t matter if they heard about you online or offline, people are trained to use their mobile devices, tablets, and desktops to search for more information, and your website is a 24/7/365 resource waiting for them.

Many times, people find out that you’re on Facebook because they’ve visited your website, which also offers many other benefits for your visitors. Aside from having an e-mail newsletter, you may offer ancillary materials they would enjoy, such as additional resources, e-books, Q&A, etc.

Sure, you may need to invest some money for a developer to build your website and assist with an upgrade, redesign or functionality add-ons over time. But for anyone with a long-term goal, this is one of the best and most critical investments you can make.

So yes, use Facebook as ONE of the many arrows in your quiver of marketing methods but don’t discount the need for a website. You might be cutting off your nose to spite your face (as my Mom used to say), and end up being sorry in the long run.

What is Retargeting?

Most people become aware of retargeting when they are see oddly familiar advertisements. Like when you look up that new gizmo on Amazon but leave without purchasing it, then the next time you visit Facebook, bam! There’s an ad for that gizmo right there in your newsfeed saying “Click Here to Purchase on Amazon”.
It is a very simple concept. As implied by its name, retargeting is when you continue to market to people after they leave your site without achieving your desired outcome.

How does it work?
When a visitor come to your website, a specific cookie is placed on their computer. This cookie allows you to target that visitor through a variety of advertising channels including Facebook, Google AdWords, and Twitter. The cookie is placed on the visitor’s computer through a simple script that you add to your website.

 

Retargeting

Is it difficult?
Not really, there are tools available that make the process fairly simple. BUT – it can backfire if overused. Have you ever gone to a merchant’s website, maybe a restaurant website or even some other online shopping site and now their ads are following you all over the internet? Even on Facebook? And Twitter? Relentlessly? It can be quite frustrating. Retargeting is great for business, but it can be very annoying in some cases.

Can you stop it?
There are ways to stop being the target. One way is to clear your web browser’s cache and cookies. Depending on which web browser you’re using, there are different ways of doing that. The problem here is that you have to do it quite frequently. Another is to stop accepting cookies all together, but this too can become burdensome for those sites that you visit often as you then have to re-enter the same information each time you visit because the cookies store site specific data so that you don’t have to re-enter it each time you visit.

The business perspective
Retargeting is a great way to stay “front of mind” with your customer base. However, there are many things to consider when thinking about starting a retargeting campaign. Things like; budget, technical aspects, strategy, ad design, frequency, landing pages, conversion goals, ad filtering, domain filtering… and the list goes on and on.

Before you begin, check your house and make sure it’s clean
Retargeting is only one piece in your marketing arsenal. Its effectiveness is relative to the rest of your marketing channels. Make sure there is not some underlying problem with your business before attempting to send visitors back to your site once they’ve left. If they are leaving your site without converting, you need to understand why.

How do you know if there is a problem?
Analyze the data you have available. Here are a few things to consider before launching a retargeting campaign:

  • Check Google Analytics
    1. What is your bounce rate?
    2. How much time does the average user spend on the site?
    3. How many pages do they visit?
  • Is your site responsive?
  • Check your competition
    1. Do your competitors have a better product?
    2. Do your competitors offer better pricing?
    3. Is their website better than yours?
  • Focus on Customer Feedback
    1. What do customers tell you about your business?
    2. What do reviews from third party sites tell you?

If your website is sub-par, all the money you spend on retargeting strategies will most likely be a waste. It’s important to consult a professional web designer to evaluate your site based on today’s trends in web technology, design, and online visitor tendencies before moving forward. The bottom line is, you have to have a great website. If yours is not so awesome, then that’s the place to start.

Remember
Your website is your number one sales tool. It works for you 24x7x365, it must be well designed, send the proper message to your visitors, have a compelling call-to-action, and convert visitors into customers. All are critical components in today’s online world. These will become even more critical as your competitors step up their online marketing game.
This is only a brief overview of retargeting. The question is not whether you should be using it, but how you’ll make retargeting a part of a successful marketing strategy for 2016. Retargeting provides an amazing tool to reach potential customers with strong messaging. Even if you’re skeptical that it won’t deliver the ROI, it is probably too valuable not to at least look at as an option. Contact a professional for advice before you decide.

Our 10 Favorite WordPress Plugins

If you’re planning on choosing WordPress to develop your website, you’ve made the right decision. WordPress is one of the most highly used website platforms around. There are literally hundreds of free themes available and many of them are responsive which means they are ready for mobile use. Responsive simply means that they automatically adjust the appearance of the website pages to fit the screen size of the device being used to access it. Along with the many available themes come thousands of plugins. Plugins basically add functionality to WordPress sites so your site can deliver the types of capabilities that you want your visitors and customers to have.

Here are 10 of our favorite plugins that we use frequently when designing websites for our customers. There are many more, but these are some of the most highly used.

  1. Akismet
    Akismet automatically checks all comments against the Akismet Web service and filters out the ones that look like spam. Each comment has a status history, so you can easily see which comments were caught or cleared by Akismet and which were spammed or unspammed by a site moderator. URLs are shown in the comment body to reveal hidden or misleading links. Moderators can see the number of approved comments for each user. Akismet also has a discard feature that outright blocks the worst spam, saving you disk space and speeding up your site.
  2. All In One SEO
    This plugin allows you to optimize your WordPress site for Search Engine Optimization. With upwards of 90% of today’s consumers using search engines to locate their goods and services, websites that are not rated highly enough will just not be seen. I recently heard a line that went “Where’s the best place to hide something? … On page two of Google – nobody ever looks there”. I have read statistics showing that as little as 20% of users ever go past page one. If you don’t want your competitors to get the new business, you need your site to rank high in the search engines. The other popular SEO Plugin is WordPress SEO by Yoast, which is also very good. They both provide excellent SEO configuration capabilities and it really comes down to a matter of choice as to which one to use.
  3. BackupBuddy
    There’s another saying that goes, “If you don’t want to lose it, back it up”. Sites get hacked every day. Our passwords are rarely as strong as we think. And sometimes it doesn’t matter. Sometimes we (or our clients) delete the wrong file or make a change that breaks something. Have you ever triggered a fatal error from a bad plugin? Crashes happen. But with BackupBuddy, recovering from a problem is quick and easy. This plugin also makes moving a site from one host to another quite easy.
  4. Enhanced Media Library 
    This plug-in is a powerful tool and can be very handy for those who need to manage a lot of media files. Here are a few highlights: Media Taxonomies (Categories for Media Files), you can create unlimited amount of media taxonomies (like categories and tags), be in total control of your custom taxonomy parameters via admin, edit and delete your custom media taxonomies, assign existed taxonomies to Media Library (for example, you can use post categories as a taxonomy for your media files), immediately set categories to any media file during upload, allow/disallow uploading for any file type, and much more. There is also a paid version that allows for bulk file actions.
  5. Google Analytics
    This is not really a plugin, but a very important feed mechanism. Knowing your audience and what they want is key to the success of your website. The best way to know your audience is through your traffic statistics and this is exactly what Google Analytics provides for FREE. It shows who visits your website – their geographical location, which browser they used, their screen resolution, language, etc. You can see how long users stay on the site, which pages they visited the most, where they most often leave from, the average number of pages viewed, etc. It shows where they arrived on your website from, you can see how they found you. Whether it was through a search engine (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.), social networks (Facebook, Twitter etc.), a link from another website, or a direct type-in. If you’re not using Google Analytics to monitor your site utilization, it’s like driving with blinders on. As the old saying goes: “If you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it”. Google Analytics helps you improve your site and give your audience what they like.
  6. Google Maps
    If you have a brick and mortar business and want to show your site visitors where you are and how to get to your location, this plugin is for you. It provides directions, interactive maps, and satellite/aerial imagery of many countries. You can embed a basic map, a Street View image, driving directions, or a local search into your website. When your viewers are signed in to Google, they can also see their home and work, saved places, and more in your map.
  7. Google XML Sitemaps
    This plugin will generate a special XML sitemap which helps search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo to better index your site. With such a sitemap, it’s much easier for the crawlers to see the complete structure of your site and retrieve it more efficiently. The plugin supports all kinds of WordPress generated pages as well as custom URLs. Additionally it notifies all major search engines every time you create a post with new content.
  8. Gravity Forms
    The most basic use of Gravity Forms is your general contact form, which just about every WordPress site has or needs. Whatever the reason that people need to get in touch or you need to collect information, Gravity Forms makes it easy. But it’s the versatility of what you can do in terms of contact and support forms that makes even this seemingly mundane use of forms exciting. You can create any variety of form, collect any array of data, allow for file uploads, and much more.
  9. Monacrh 
    Monarch is a Social Sharing and Social Following plugin built to get you more share and more followers on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Monarch does this by using various different social sharing integration methods, such as social sharing sidebars, inline sharing buttons, popups and fly-in boxes. By encouraging your visitors to share, and making it easy for them to share, Monarch can greatly increase the social sharing activity on your website.
  10. TinyMCE Advanced
    Although the WordPress post editor includes some useful tools for formatting your content when you are crafting a new post or page, it’s possible to add even more formatting and presentation options to the editor in order to help you create even more attractive and engaging content. TinyMCE Advanced makes the WordPress post and page editor even more powerful. Once this plugin is installed on your site, you can not only customize the buttons which are displayed on the post editor, removing or adding items as needed, but you also get access to a selection of new buttons and functionality.

These are just ten of the plugins we often use when designing and developing a website. There are many, many more that we have used for particular applications but at a minimum, these will certainly get you going. Are there any other plugins you are familiar with that you think should be added to this list?

Google’s New Mobilegeddon Update

Google has released many algorithm updates in the past, and we’re sure they will continue to do so on a regular basis. The last major update was “Pigeon” released in December 2014 followed by a minor update implemented quietly in February 2015, many suspect as a precursor to this most recent one. Their new update that rolled out April 21st has been dubbed “Mobilegeddon” by industry experts.

This new algorithm only affects Google searches made using smartphones. The results will favor websites deemed “mobile friendly,” giving them higher rankings than sites that are only optimized for desktops and laptops.

Google was reported saying “As people increasingly search on their mobile devices, we want to make sure they can find content that’s not only relevant and timely, but also easy to read and interact with on smaller mobile screens.” They even have a website that will assess your website for mobile readiness.

This change results in an even more critical need for businesses to have mobile friendly websites. Favoring mobile websites where searches are made from mobile devices seems obvious, and in 2015 you’d think most sites have mobile friendly webpages. Right? Nope. A study done by online Internet marketing firm Portent shows that many of the Web’s top sites actually aren’t mobile friendly. How does your website stack up?

Mobile use has increased significantly, and will continue to do so. If you have not been keeping tabs on the marketplace and already made your website and other online content accessible to the mobile world, you should start worrying about Google placement. If you really want to take advantage of the opportunities that online visibility has to offer, you should keep pace with the changing world around you and update your site now. your competitors probably already have.

If you need help either assessing your website, or actually making it mobile-friendly, please give us a call for a free evaluation.